It took over three years, thousands of deaths, hundreds of thousands of refugees, depletion of private and state resources; it took national and international outcries, mediation and refrain for dialogue as a solution to an embarrassing carnage, for Mr. Paul Biya to budge and accept that Cameroonians should start talking to instead of shooting one another.
When he at last announced that dialogue could happen, he assigned Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute to organize and chair it. The latter swung to immediate action, consulting individuals and interest groups. They included hawks and doves, saints and sinners, hardliners and malleable people of every hue. Paradoxically, even regime zealots and others who had sworn that there was nothing like an Anglophone problem and that there will never be a dialogue, were the first to march to Dion Ngute purporting to proffer tips on how the Biya dialogue could or should best be handled.
As they consultation continues, incredible numbers of interest groups, sans the dyed in the wool separatists are marching in and out of the Star Building, soliciting, eager to be part of an imminent dialogue with well defined prescriptions, restrictions, do’s and don’ts. (Continued on Pg 2)
When the Civil Cabinet of the Presidency of the republic announced that President Biya would address the nation at 8 pm on Tuesday, September 11, the nation immediately went into frenzy. This was not so much because his intervention had been long awaited as the thrust the speech was supposed to evoke. Of course, everybody but regime hardliners was in the know that he had been tardy in addressing the crisis rocking the two English speaking regions of the country. However, the content was not so much in issue as the form of whatever he had to tell the nation. What was nevertheless, certain was that the Anglophone crisis would be the fulcrum on which the speech would revolve and it turned out to be so.
Whatever character the speech conjured up, when President Biya eventually addressed the nation, opinions differed as to its poignancy regarding a definitive solution to the Anglophone crisis. While there is unanimity in the fact that he has, at last, come down from his high horse to decree a national dialogue on the Anglophone crisis, there seem to be apartheid in the perception of the rest of the speech particularly, in its rendition of the Anglophone problem in question.
Judging by inflexions from a vox pop conducted on the issue, many Anglophones are of the opinion that the president has not acknowledged that there is an Anglophone problem. By derisively referring to Anglophone alienation as “purported”marginalization, the president is overtly siding with the likes of Atanga Nji who read wolf – crying when there is no wolf in the Anglophone quest for recognition as an equal partner in the union that brought together the former East and West Cameroon in 1961.
Furthermore, badmouthing is to the effect that the president is insensitive to Anglophone idiosyncrasies when he justified the absence of marginalization of Anglophones by the persistent appointment of Prime Ministers from the English speaking part of the country since the advent of political pluralism in 1992. Persons of this leaning peg their derision of the speech on the fact that when President Biya was Prime Minister, he was the second personality in terms of state protocol.
They continue that apart from being whittled down to insignificance and choking under the weight of four Francophone appointees, whose ascendancy regarding state protocol is not a moot point, the Prime Minister is just a ceremonial position, given that de facto authority resides with the Secretary General at the Presidency of the Republic.
Another bone of contention is the fact that the president has arrogated to himself the prerogative to decide on the representatives to the announced dialogue. While admitting that his array of potential participants cuts across a broad spectrum of Cameroonians, some dissidents are wont to say that the approach Christian Cardinal Tumi and his All Anglophone Conference, AGF, were about to bring to bear on the circumstance would have produced participants who are true representatives of their people. After all, they say, the issue in instance is Anglophone alienation by Government and not a national conference. Moreover, they continue that those who now pass off as elected appointed officials had since lost authority to represent their people on account of their being seen as government hirelings.
Perhaps the most vexing issue highlighted by the president’s speech is his nonchalant attitude to the sensibilities of Anglophone separatists. The contention of some of those interviewed is that the president ought to have called for an immediate ceasefire with soldiers returning to their barracks while separatist militias are given a deadline of about three months to completely lay down their arms.
They are also miffed by the fact that their acclaimed leaders Sisiku Julius Ayuk Tabe and his crew of abductees from Nigeria were sentenced to life imprisonment barely a few weeks to the convening of the dialogue. By their reckoning, conventional wisdom would have impelled the head of state to order that all those detained on account of the simmering crisis be released before the commencement of the dialogue.
Be that as it may, the thread that runs through the vox pop is that peace should be given a chance and for this reason let Cameroonians of all climes and skies gird their loins for the D-Day. While admitting that the regime has broken world records in disavowing resolutions reached at conferences to map out antidotes to opaque governance (Foumban, Tripartite, deletion of the prefix ‘United’ from the country’s name etc.), history will certainly judge us to have deliberately stayed away from a golden opportunity to right the wrongs plaguing this country once and for all.
On the other hand, should president Biya and his coterie of court jesters attempt to use this as another opportunity to ride roughshod on Cameroonians, the upshot will certainly be an all-out revolution whose incendiary impact will send Cameroon one hundred years behind.